Following the annual International Oil and Gas Conference held in Ashgabat last week, at which Turkmenistan rushed to assure European guests of their readiness to supply gas from their new fields. However, some analysts have clarified what was actually said at the conference, and the message is quite different: Turkmenistan is looking south, not west, to realize its pipe dreams, according to a blog post from Sifting the Karakum (sponsored by OSI). Turkmen officials reportedly spent much of the conference praising the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, with little to say about plans to construct a pipeline for exporting Turkmen gas to Europe. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Turkmen officials noticeably did not mention the Trans-Caspian pipeline project – one which would rival Russia’s South Sream, in contrast to their enthusiasm for TAPI, a project which enjoys the support of the US.
Meanwhile, Stanislav Pritchin, writing for Trend News Agency say that despite the seeming popularity of TAPI among potential investors, it is unlikely that its construction will begin anytime soon, because of the instability in Afghanistan, especially in light of the drawdown of NATO troops in 2014. In an article for the internet newspaper zonakz.net, Sergei Zhiltsov, Head of the Post-Soviet Countries Research Center of the Russian Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Academy, concurs, saying that despite US support for TAPI as far back as in the 1990s, the project will not likely be realized anytime soon, as the problems around its construction – foremost, the instability of the region – remains. Nevertheless, an agreement on TAPI had been signed this past May by each of the four participating countries, that envisioned a $7.6-billion pipeline with the capacity to transport 90 million metric standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd) of gas for a 30-year period, and which would go online by 2018. India and Pakistan would get 38 mmscmd each, while the remaining 14 mmscmd would be supplied to Afghanistan.
Some analysts express skepticism about the Trans-Caspian pipeline project, even though it got a boost last September when the EU adopted a mandate to negotiate a legally binding treaty between the EU, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan to build it. With renewed talks between the EU and Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan this September, the EU stated that it does not see the unresolved status of the Caspian Sea as an obstacle for the construction of the pipeline, even despite the conflict over the ownership of gas fields on disputed Caspian territories between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. Russia and Iran oppose the project, insisting that the construction of the Trans-Caspian requires the agreement of all five littoral states. The project also may lose some of its appeal now that the agreement on the Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) designed to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan’s Shag Deniz gas field through Turkey to Europe has been signed. The expected capacity of TANAP is 16 billion cubic meters per year, six of which would go to Turkey and the rest to Europe.